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Brent Spence accident raises questions

COVINGTON, Ky. (Joe Webb) -- A bad weekend accident on the Brent Spence Bridge renewed safety concerns.
   
An eight car pileup shut down the bridge in both directions Saturday, August 2, after one car fell from one level to another.  Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.  Ohio approved tolling to help pay for a replacement but Kentucky is still struggling with that.  What happened Saturday, regardless of the root cause, has a lot of people asking: "Can we afford to wait much longer for a new bridge?"

The Brent Spence was ruled functionally obsolete.  It was designed for 80,000 cars a day and carries about 175,000.  But is the Brent Spence Bridge dangerous?  And was it at least partly responsible for Saturday's accident?

When asked if the accident was a result of the bridge, Mayor Sherry Carran (D) of Covington said, "Uh, yeah.  Because the lanes are narrow so when a car, there isn't a lot of leeway.  So that semi that hit the car that was crossing over, he had no room to really maneuver."

Covington police said a southbound car crossed several lanes to make the Fifth Street exit and cut off a semi.  That started a chain reaction that smashed cars, launched one to the lower level and shut down the highway for hours.  Modern federal highway regulations call for 12 foot lanes and 10 foot emergency lanes.  The Brent Spence has 11 foot lanes and no emergency lanes.
   
Drivers often have to change lanes on the bridge to get where they're going.  Daily driver Belinda Penn said that doesn't always work.

Wide or narrow, the bridge is what it is.  Penn said her children won't ride with her across it.  She wants it replaced but said the biggest problem is not the bridge.

"I think it's big enough. People just need to learn how to drive," Penn said.

Mayor Carran is a supporter of building a new bridge and building it soon.  Her other concern was the drain on resources.  Saturday, she said every Covington police officer on duty was either on the bridge or directing traffic away from the accident.

The recommended plan for the bridge is building a new span just west of the existing one.  The old bridge would stay open and only carry traffic for I-71.  The section of the bridge involved in Saturday's accident would still be in use.
   
Planners estimated a new bridge will cost about $2.6 billion.

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